Marc Jacobs countersues Nirvana in T-shirt copyright dispute

The law of copyright protects the results and expressions of creative ability. No formality is involved, the right comes into existence as the tangible results of that creativity appear. It is the arising of property rights, concurrent with the creation of the protected copyright material, that makes copyright such a valuable protection for the creative person against unauthorised copying. The issue of copyright was the forefront of a legal dispute between Nirvana and Marc Jacobs.

Marc Jacobs is a high-end American fashion designer, that has taken legal action against Nirvana, a clothing merchandise brand. This was due to antecedent suing by Nirvana for breach of copyright, of their smiley face logo, and signature font in a T-shirt design. The original legal action took place in January, when Jacobs was subject to accusation of being “oppressive, fraudulent and malicious” in creating designs which were argued to “threaten to dilute the value of Nirvana’s licenses with its licensees for clothing products.”

Jacobs proceeded to dismiss the lawsuit in March, as his lawyers argued that the smiley face was a “commonplace image” and that while the designs were inspired by Nirvana’s 1990s concert T-shirt, his T-shirt did not infringe copyright; as they were sufficiently different from Nirvana’s. Unfortunately for Jacobs, a Californian judge allowed the case to progress. Jacobs has now responded with a countersuit, arguing that the case has “numerous deficiencies.’ The most paramount deficiency to come to light is that it is uncertain who designed the band’s logo.

A previous lawsuit claimed it was designed by the late Kurt Cobain, when it appeared on a flyer for the release party, celebrating the band Never mind, and this is how the band T-shirt came into existence. Controversially in the previous lawsuit, Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic, surviving band members, admitted they did not know who created it. Jacobs has continued to pursue for Nirvana’s copyright claim to the logo to be removed, and additionally requesting that the fashion company’s legal costs should be compensated. But unfortunately for Jacobs, Nirvana are continuing to contest the case.

If you have any questions regarding copyright or need our assistance with a matter, please get in touch with the Lawdit team today.

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